That Place

20 Feb 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes


It’s one of those things that any one who’s ever ridden a mountain bike has. That one place that lingers in the back of one’s mind for whatever reason; it may not have been the best place you’ve ever ridden but you always look back on it fondly.

For some that stay in the same locale, the moods change. What was once great looses its flavour, as other areas open up that are more interesting, or more challenging. The ‘place’ then becomes a memory, much as if you move away, never to see it again, regardless of what’s become of it – a perfect moment frozen in time, which if you try and revisit it, you are always disappointed.

But there are such places that do not loose the mystique that drew you in in the first place. They, somehow, remain as fresh and interesting as the first time you rode them. My ‘place’ is a ridge line of trails that have been there as long as I have been riding dirt.

In the beginning, when I started on a mountain bike and trails were nothing more that shallow walking tracks that shot off fire trails, my place was a bit of a secret for those that knew. If offered a rare glimpse of what singletrack was all about, fast, flowing and tree laden. It was the stuff we all looked at in the US magazines and pined for, though no one was actually aware, or overly interested in learning, of how such trails came to be. I will always remember that feeling the first time a line of us zipped down one of the trails on our fully rigid steel steeds, swooping our way through the trees.

At first the riding was not what we would not call ‘extended’, half an hour at best, so we used the traverse ‘the place’ on the way to somewhere else but over the years things changed.

In my second period living where the ‘place’ existed (some 12 years from the first), unknown local riders had established a larger network of interconnecting segments. They were rough, badly made but even though I was far more experienced, and my bikes far more capable, they never ceased to make one smile. Still relatively quiet, as most local riders were drawn to other ‘more exciting’ areas, left it for those that knew about it, which in turn made it that more special.

After moving away for the second time, I now only catch glimpses, snapshots of it, as each time I aim to make a special stop; partly to see what’s become of it, partly to see if the magic it held over 20 years ago was still there. Strangely enough, each time I found not only did the magic still exist, it got better.

Things have evolved. People who knew how to build trails had secretly gone in and started to make new trails or build on what already existed. As the word spread, the local government got involved, committees made decisions and what was illegal became legal, conflict became harmony, and in turn the trails that the ‘place’ held had become that much better.

A few weeks back I got another chance to go back. My meeting had finished earlier than I thought it and my intended riding buddy bailed as he had driven to work. With time to kill, I decided to head over early. It was a decision that could not have been any better.

Early afternoon, end of the week, there was not a soul around. I had ‘the place’ to myself and in doing so was almost magically transported back to where it all began. But it was not to be a nostalgic ride on trails I had long since out grown. The ‘place’ had actually become better. Fast, flowing, interesting; the place had matured in parallel with those that remained and continued to ride it, on bikes that demand more from the dirt under them.

And for two hours I rode some of the best trails, in almost perfect isolation.

Do you have a ‘place’?

g [@elevenvelo]


Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.

I've run mtb events, distributed some legendary brands, ran my own cycling clothing brand, designed bikes and was a GM and head designer for a famous but sadly now extinct mtb marquee; and after 20 odd years I decided riding bikes was more fun than working with them.
Over that time though, I wrote (and some wrote for me) a lot of stuff about bikes, on blogs and the like. Some was good, some, well... not so much. Rather than loose it all when I shut everything down once and for all, I have kept some of my favourite, and more popular pieces here for... prosperity?
I also am working on new pieces as well...

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